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Revisiting 'Rocketman'

Falling in love with 'Rocketman" all over again.

Rocketman (2019)

5 / 5
4.5 / 5

When I first saw Rocketman upon its release on May 31, 2019, I instantly fell in love with it. I found it to be brilliantly conceived, and led by an extraordinary performance from Taron Egerton. I loved it so much that it ended up being my second favorite film of the year, behind Joker. It’s a truly astonishing film, and one that I am excited to revisit as it becomes available to stream today on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

What makes Rocketman so utterly unique is how it incorporates the music into the film. Instead of being a straightforward biopic, Rocketman becomes a musical fantasy. It strays from reality, allowing for elaborate dance numbers and for characters to burst out into song — all renditions of Elton John’s music. Director Dexter Fletcher finds the most creative ways to weave in between reality and fantasy. There is enough of a grounded story that we can follow Elton’s life and see how he evolves as a person. Fletcher knows exactly when to put that on the back burner in order to dive head-first into the fantasy.

The music would have no weight to it if it wasn’t for how layered and developed of a character Elton John is in this film. His ultimate struggle is to find love and happiness. As he is told many times by his own parents, no matter where he goes he cannot find it. This leads him down a dark, self-destructive path of drugs, alcohol, and several suicide attempts. The movie gives us a well-rounded look at who Elton John is as a person, and it holds nothing back.

Taron Egerton is absolutely magnificent in this film. I first came to know him from Kingsman: The Secret Service. He’s great in that movie, but I had no idea he was capable of a performance quite like this. He has deep emotional moments of pure dramatic acting, he has elaborate dance numbers, and he sings all of the songs in the movie himself. When it comes to movies about musicians, I always think the actors should perform the music themselves. It heightens the realism of the film for me.


Egerton’s singing doesn’t sound identical to Elton John, nor does it have to. Rather, he captures the spirit of Elton’s music, and infuses a little bit of himself into it as well. This creates something new for the context of the film. Egerton is capturing the persona of Elton John as much as he can, and doing the same for the music only adds to the versatility of Taron Egerton’s performance.

Part of the feeling of authenticity Rocketman has comes from Elton John himself being a producer on the movie. From the very beginning, he didn’t want to gloss over the unsavory parts of his life or change things to paint himself in a better light; he wanted it to be true to who he was as a person and the life he’s lived. As Elton says himself:

“There are moments in [the film] where I’m completely disgusting and awful, but then, at my worst, I was disgusting and awful, and there’s no reason to pretend otherwise… some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But I just haven’t lived a PG-13 rated life… and some studios wanted us to lose the fantasy element and make a more straightforward biopic, but that was missing the point. Like I said, I lived in my own head a lot as a kid. And when my career took off, it took off in such a way that it almost didn’t seem real to me.”

With Elton John there every step of the way, keeping it honest and real, the movie feels so much more raw and intimate. The fantasy elements fit so perfectly with who Elton John is as a person. To do this movie any other way, I feel, would be a disservice to Elton John. Rocketman is the perfect embodiment of his history and personality. Usually, when a film’s subject is involved in the production, it can be really hard to retain the integrity of the movie. It is Elton’s devotion to the truth and to making the most genuine movie that could be made, that allows for Rocketman to flourish.

Rocketma crocodile rock scene

One of the most fascinating parts of Elton’s life that the film explores is his sexuality, which is all tied into the character’s larger arc of finding himself. Initially, Elton doesn’t really know who he is. He carries a lot of baggage from a withholding father and an indifferent mother. The only thing he knows about himself for sure is his love for music, and his aspirations to be a star. As he is told early on, “you have to kill who you were born to be to become the person you want to be.” So once he falls into fame, Elton throws it all away and fully embraces who he is.

In his relationships through the film, however, he cannot find genuine love. His romantic endeavors ultimately result in it not being reciprocated or in him being used by that person. His own mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) tells him if he “chooses” to be gay he will “never be loved properly”, and that sticks with Elton. He marries a woman, in order to try to inject his life with what other people deem to be normalcy. They sleep in separate rooms, and his alcoholism only deepens.

What Elton finds by the end of the film is an ability to cast away the baggage of his childhood, and to reject the external need for him to be someone he isn’t. All Elton can do is be honest with himself which, as we can see from Elton’s words as the film’s producer, is something he still carries with himself today. The closing credits of Rocketman feature an aptly-themed original song from Elton John, titled “I’m Going to Love Me Again”, which went on to win an Oscar.

Mama cass elton john

Overall, I find Rocketman to be simply brilliant. We’ve seen so many musician biopics over the years, and the combined efforts of Dexter Fletcher, Elton John, and Taron Egerton create something wholly different and unique. It isn’t just recycling Elton John’s music for its own sake, but it finds innovative ways to incorporate them into the story in order to further the characters. It explores universal themes of addiction, love, and acceptance through the struggle of the character of Elton John, whom Egerton embodies with such sincerity.

I hope Rocketman is a movie that will stand the test of time. People liked it when it initially came out: it scored an 89% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and made $195 million at the worldwide box office on a $40 million budget. In the year since its debut, it hasn’t had the lasting impression I hoped it would. It seems to have come and gone with its theatrical run. With Rocketman now available to stream on Amazon Prime and Hulu, perhaps it will gain a new following of fans who will appreciate it the same way that I do.

-Nathanael Molnár